8 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

Knowing how to approach a grieving friend can be difficult. As one goes through life and experiences loss, they know how isolating it can be following that loss. You want to reach out and help, to go beyond “I’m so sorry for your loss.” We’ve compiled 8 ideas on how you can help your friend. Friendships and the journey through grief can be unique, and while there is no right way to help a friend through this trying time, we hope some of these ways provide clarity. 

  1. Understand the grief process. This is first and foremost - in order to help a friend who’s grieving, you’ll need to understand what they’re going through. In processing their loss, the pain they go through can cause emotional swings. From being depressed, to having angry outbursts, you’ll need to continue to be a good friend. Also be aware that there is no timeline for grief - they may have good days, they may have bad days. Generally people recover after bereavement about 18-24 months following the loss but some need more or less. Be compassionate and don’t tell them to move on. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Let your friend mourn without judgement. 
  2. Keep in touch regularly. The days, even weeks following the loss can be a whirlwind. There are tasks to be done, paperwork to be completed, letters to be sent. And in the midst of it all, well-intentioned friends and family check-in to see how their grieving friend is holding up. The support is strong in the beginning, but as time continues, people don’t think to continue their encouragement. This is where you come in. Make an effort to provide regular check-ins, even a standing phone or lunch date if it makes it easier on your friend. With grief having no bounds, when support begins to fade your friend will need you, and you’ll be there for them. On the other hand, as you reach out you need to be patient. Through one’s grief journey they may appreciate alone time. Be understanding, and just let your friend know you are there for them. 
  3. Acknowledge the bad, you don’t need to make everything positive. Losing someone is hard, there’s no way around that. Let your friend grieve. Be that person that your friend can vent to unfiltered. Don’t feel like you need to put a positive spin on everything. You can be their safe space to cry, to scream, to be angry. Let them cry. You may want to help cheer them up but these tears are a necessary part of the grieving journey. By allowing them to cry without judgement you show them that it’s ok, and that you’ll be there for them no matter what.  
  4. Listen. It sounds simple enough, but being a good listener takes concentration. When your friend is talking to you, do not interrupt. Don’t start formulating your response while they are still talking. Try not to turn it around and talk about your experiences with loss. People feel the need to come up with solutions or suggestions when people are in pain. This is not the time to do that - you just need to be there and pay attention.
  5. Provide solid assistance. Your friend is most likely fielding various platitudes of ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.’ While much appreciated, it may be difficult for your friend to reach out, or to identify what they need assistance with. Think about tasks your loved one might need help with that you’d be able to lend a hand with. You could offer to: 
    - Help with childcare
    - Run errands
    - Take care of yard work
    - Aid in cleaning or laundry
    - Cook for them
  6. Provide a distraction. When you feel it’s appropriate, see if you can offer a break from their grief. Take the time to look at old photos and reminisce about the good times they had with their loved ones. See if they’d like to accompany you to a meal or a movie. 
  7. Remember important dates. As time marches on, anniversaries of their loss, holidays, and birthdays will be painful reminders of their bereavement. Keep track of these dates, and make a point to reach out to your friend and let them know that you’re there for them.
  8. Love. This is the simple answer. Above all else, just be there. Provide that shoulder for them to lean on, listen in their time of need, give them a warm hug when they need it.

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